INC expels minister who alleged house arrest

MANILA, Philippines – The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) expelled a minister who told reporters on Thursday, July 23, that INC officials placed him under house arrest for allegedly running a blog filled with accusations against the church.

INC spokesman Brother Edwil Zabala confirmed the expulsion of minister Isaias Samson Jr Friday morning, July 24. "Oo, itiniwalag din. Dahil sa hindi pagsunod at pagpapasakop (Yes, he was expelled. For disobedience and refusal to submit)," he told Rappler in a text message.

(WATCH Iglesia spokesman Edwil Zabala: No hostage-taking happened)

Asked if Samson's wife and son were expelled too, Zabala said: "Ang pagkakaalam ko ay, oo (What I know is, yes)."

On Thursday night, Samson explained that his family was barred from leaving their townhouse in Tandang Sora, Quezon City from July 16 until the early morning of July 23.

Napakalaking torture (It was a big torture),” Samson said.

Kinumpiska ‘yung aking cellphone tapos kinuha ‘yung computer doon sa opisina. Pati ‘yung computer naming sarili sa bahay ay kinuha rin pati ‘yung cellphone ng aking anak at pinutulan din kami ng linya ng telepono,” he said.

(They confiscated my cellphone and took away the computer in the office. Our computer at home and my son's cellphone were taken too. They also cut our telephone line.)

Samson said they were under the constant watch of armed guards. He said his wife recently underwent heart surgery and nearly passed out because of the tension over their alleged house arrest.

According to Samson, church officials tried to convince him while he was detained to say that the claims made by Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo and his mother Tenny were untrue.

Ako [ay] naniniwala na totoo ‘yun, ‘yung panganib na nasa kanila. Hindi gagawin ‘yun ng mga Manalo, kung sino man sa mga Manalo, lalo na nu'ng pamilya ng kapatid na Erdy, kung di iyon totoo sapagka't ayaw nilang sirain ang Iglesia.”

(I believe what they said was true, the danger to them. No Manalo, especially the family of brother Erdy, would do that if it were false, because they wouldn't want to destroy Iglesia.)

In a 1:54-minute YouTube video released Wednesday evening, July 22, the brother and mother of current INC executive minister Eduardo said their lives were in danger. Eduardo expelled them from the church the day after.

Eduardo’s father, Eraño "Erdy" Manalo, was the INC’s former executive minister. He died in August 2009.

The escape

Fearing for their lives, Samson’s family planned their escape at around 2:30 am on July 23.

Nag-pray kaming pamilya. Nakiusap kami sa Panginoon Diyos na ituro sa amin kung paano kami makakatakas,” he said. (We prayed hard as a family. We asked the Lord to show us how to escape.)

Sa awa ng Diyos, nang kami ay lumabas ng 5:30 ng umaga at sinabi naming kami ay sasamba, bagama't pinigilan kami nung una, ay nakalusot kami nang magaan na magaan at wala namang nakasunod sa amin.”

(Because of God's mercy, when we tried to leave at 5:30 am and told the guards that we were going to church, even if they tried to stop us at first, we were able to easily escape without anyone following us.)

His family then moved from one place to another with the help of friends who Samson was eventually able to communicate with.

It was through their help that a hastily called press conference was held on July 23.

Abductions ‘confirmed’

Samson, who was suspended last week and removed as editor-in-chief of INC’s official publication Pasugo, was accused of being responsible for the blog site "Iglesia Ni Cristo – Silent No More" run by a certain Antonio Ramirez Ebangelista.

Ebangelista claims that 10 ministers, workers, and brethren from different provinces were allegedly abducted and expelled from INC. (READ: Sign outside INC building: 'Tulong, hostage kami’)

Ebangelista's blog is accessible through www.incsilentnomore.wordpress.com. Previously, Ebangelista was using the web address www.iglesianicristosilentnomore.wordpress.com until it was hacked and previous posts were deleted.

While Samson denied the accusation against him, he confirmed the abductions.

Talagang totoo yun, at ang isang matibay na confirmed [ay] ang nangyari kay kapatid na Lowell Menorca II,” he said. (Those are true, and what happened to brother Lowell Menorca Jr is a confirmation.)

Menorca, another minister, is currently detained in Dasmariñas City, Cavite for threatening two construction workers with a hand grenade, according to police. Earlier reports by some church members said he was abducted. (READ: Was Iglesia ni Cristo minister abducted? Lawyer denies)

Ang nakakapagtaka doon, nakadestino [siya] sa Sorsogon, pinick-up siya ng mga military. Mula sa Sorsogon, dinala sa Camp Karingal [tapos] nakarating ng Dasmariñas at doon kinasuhan," said Samson.

(What's suspicious is that he was assigned to Sorsogon then he was picked up by the military. From Sorsogon, he was brought to Camp Karingal until he reached Dasmariñas and was charged there.)

However, Allen Blair Boy, a lawyer sent by the INC to where Menorca is currently detained, denied that Menorca was "abducted" or "kidnapped."

The Inquirer further reported that Samson thinks he was "taken" because he has expressed opposition against INC general auditor Glicerio Santos Jr. He said that decrees by Santos and other church officials, including those concerning members' funds, were met by protests from some ministers.

Samson also told the Inquirer that rumors of alleged corrupt practices have been surrounding the Santos family, including the disbursement of funds for major infrastructure projects like the INC's Philippine Arena.

INC anniversary affected?

While Samson thinks the recent events might affect the INC’s 101st anniversary celebration on Monday, July 27, he hopes the faith of INC members will keep them strong.

Ito ay napakalaking pagsubok sa kanila, sa kanilang pananampalataya, at sana makapasa sila sa pagsubok (This is a great trial for them and their faith, and I hope they will get past this)," he said.

Gaya ng lagi kong sinasabi, anuman ang ginagawa ng ilan na masasama ay hindi nangangahulugan na ang Iglesia ay masama. Ang Iglesia ay namamalaging totoo pag pinag-aralan mo ang mga doktrina o aral.”

(Like what I always say, when a few do evil things, that doesn't mean Iglesia is evil too. Iglesia remains true when you study the doctrines or teachings.)

He also believes publicizing his family ordeal will not hurt the reputation of INC.

Ang aking paninindigan [ay] lalong masisira ang Iglesia kapag walang naglakas loob na magsabi [tungkol sa] maling nangyayari.” 

(My stand is that Iglesia will only be more harmed if no one will have the courage to speak about the wrong things happening.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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